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Cuisine: French gourmet

Visit: July 2012 & March 2013

Price: High (appetizers in the above €50 level and main courses above €70)

Chef: Jacques Chibois has brought the Royal Gray restaurant at the hotel Gray d’Albion in Cannes to two Michelin stars (the first place in town to achieve two stars), so opening his own place was the most sensible thing to do. In 1996, after buying an 18th-century country manor La Bastide Saint-Antoine, where once stayed prominent faces of a global fame from the Kennedy family to the rock legend Rolling Stones, he opened a restaurant and a small hotel under the same name. Only a year later, La Bastide Saint-Antoine, was awarded two Michelin stars (in 1997).

His five-star place soon became a member of the Relais & Chateaux and Relais Gourmand hotel groups.

The view from La Bastide Saint Antoine

Atmosphere: From October through April, the cosy and chic inside rooms with fireplaces host all the gourmet cuisine appreciating diners. The two restaurant rooms are elegant and comfortable, but once you stop by during the summer, you will be seduced by the outside garden dining area. Its panoramic view overlooking the Provencal landscape with the Mediterranean sea in the far horizon is a refreshing retreat for the soul. Your lunch or dinner suddenly becomes a spa treatment. Hearing just the birds, tirelessly buzzing crickets and muted voices of the fellow diners becomes a mind-detoxifying escape to the country for any city dweller. Dress fresh and elegant and you will be in harmony with the place. Ladies do not to bother with high-heels when eating in the outside area.

Food: Elegant, light and fresh. The chef’s philosophy is about playing with the gifts of the local abundant nature. One of his ideas is that “flowers have the same role as herbs and spices”. Therefore, as an homage to the town of Grasse famous for its perfumes and flowers, he includes flowers, spices and other aromatic ingredients in his culinary creations. He changes the ingredients seasonally, so if you come in summer you might still want to try it in the fall or winter with the more hearty dishes. The portions are quite small though so do not worry that you will leave feeling too heavy just like the animals ready for the winter sleep.

La Bolognaise de Homard aux Asperges

At the beginning of your meal, instead of a butter, you will be served a home-made olive oil from the grove on the property accompanied with crunchy bread crackers.

Later, an amuse bouche of daily specialties in tiny portions will tune your palate for the chef’s aromatic cooking performance.

During the summer I have discovered Monsieur Chibois’ cuisine with the great value Lunch menu for €59. Most of the appetizers are more expensive, so this three-course meal including a dessert is a great bargain for the quality you get. This menu is available daily except Sundays and holidays. It excludes beverages so if you are driving like me and stay with water and tea then it is a winner for you.

My starter of La Bolognaise de Homard aux Asperges, Coulis de Roquette et Salade, surprised me at first but after the first spoon-full it rewarded my taste buds with tantalizing complexity of each of its ingredients. My basic knowledge of French (the menu is not in English, although the staff helps you with translation) lead to an assumption that I will get something like a lobster salad with sauce Bolognaise. Instead, I got a light green pea colored gazpacho or in France known as veloute (cold liquid dish, soup) with lobster, green asparagus and a couple of roquette leafs. The dish was creamy, yet light, complex, but simple when each the lobster, asparagus and roquette was eaten separately with the cold soup and prepared from the finest local ingredients.

Les Petites Rouelles de Lotte à la Verveine

Being it lunch I went for a fish main course. The Les Petites Rouelles de Lotte à la Verveine et Santoline, Petits Oignons en Grassoise d’Olives Noires, Pois Gourmands Natures took my attention because of its Verveine sauce. Verveine is a popular leaf from a verveine tree used in tea infusions across France. Its citrusy, lemongrass aroma creates a refreshing feel. Indeed, the sauce was excellent. Combined with a side serving of cooked onion strips with chopped black olives and gourmet green pea husks it was enriching the meal with its authentic aromas.

Strawberries with sorbet and mascarpone

An exciting fan of seasonal fruit and strawberries I had the Les Fraises et Sorbet à la Gelée de Citronnelle Crème de Mascarpone à l’Amande as my desert. The strawberries were mind-blowing. They were somewhere between wild and normal strawberries. Slightly more sweet than regular ones and bigger in size than the wild strawberries. The sorbet was one of the best I have ever had. It was not too sugary, rather refreshing and faithful to its main ingredient-the fruit. The mascarpone was like a white bed in which the red heaven of berry creations was residing. Its creamy texture balanced the acidity from the berries and calmed down the coolness of the sorbet.

One of the chef’s signature dishes is the Langoustine Papillon in Orange Pulp Emulsion with Olive Oil and Basil. I have to try it next time, but if you do it before me, do not hesitate to comment and share  your impressions.

The chef has also two tasting menus of several courses. Scents and Flavors Menu for 169.00 € and Discovery Menu for 190.00 €, so if you want to pamper yourself even more and thoroughly explore the chef’s cooking.

During the winter the menu is more focused on local ingredients such as the truffles from Provance and winter vegetables.

Drinks: I peaked in the wine list and was impressed. Having a French focus the selection was wide and wines from all corners of France were having their ambassador on the list. Since I was driving I had only water and verveine tea with my desert, so I will add my suggestions in the future.

A great option for drivers and people not staying in the area is to stay overnight at the hotel and enjoy as much wine as one desires. Although, moderation in drinking as well as eating is best for not spoiling the following day. The Jacques Chibois light gourmet cooking will take care of the later, but how many bottles of wine you order is purely up to you.

Opening hours: Since it is a hotel, the lunch and dinner menus are available until guests are present. Although it is more flexible, do not expect to arrive at 10:30 pm and start your dinner.

Contact: +33(0)4 93 70 94 94; info@jacques-chibois.com

Address: 48 Avenue Henri Dunant, 06130, Grasse, France

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